Yesterday evening I heard 'Fight for your right' by Beasty Boys, that great punk rap anthem from 1986 that shook many a one's faith in pure rock. I projected it straight away to the book I had almost finished, by Norwegian writter Lars Saabye Christensen, although it roughly plays from 1965 to 1972. With only one chapter left to go, it seemed to apply somehow, until the central character Kim Karlsen all of a sudden sells his most prized possession: his collection of The Beatles records. And completely becomes undone in the act.
Nearly three weeks ago one of my stepsons said over Sunday morning brunch, "I would have liked to have been present when The Beatles were big." As I have been present at the very end of their active career, I was in a position to tell what it was like. Knowing on which day the new single was released and waiting for it to be played on the radio, Netherlands North Sea pirate station Radio Veronica, with Morse code from fishermen's vessels and all in the mix. The excitement this caused. Does this compare to the new Play Station release or Black Ops version x in 2013? Perhaps not, as so many things leak through the internet or are instantly available through many sources. I don't know. My contribution to this brunch discussion did not really excite anyone. Too far removed from 2013, I guess, but this was what it was like.
And then I started Yesterday, in Norway released under the title 'Beatles' in 1984. I loved this book. Although the kids in this book were born around 1951, years before me, their youth was not very unlike mine. Central in the book and and lending a title to each chapter of Yesterday are releases of The Beatles records, singles and albums. With the songs the boys grow from fourteen year olds to 22 year olds. Along the line we follow the changes in their lives, the steps to adulthood, from schoolboy to student, but also we follow the changes in society that took place from the second half of the 60s. The Vietnam war that entices radical politics, upcoming consumerism, seemingly easily available drugs, rising wealth and a higher education that is within reach of most people. Spare time mostly lived outdoors, with small adventures in real time, with fights, fears, fun and discoveries and lots of sports or physical movement.
Christensen portrays all this very well. Along the lines of songs. Not only The Beatles'. As the boys discover other bands in the 60s, their lives take turns too. Adultery in the love of music and sometimes friends. The story takes several twists, but I did not see the end coming in the way it did. It took me totally by surprise, but in hindsight this could be an outcome, but not necessarily so. Still, Christensen wrote a fine coming of age novel, that portrays the time he grew up in in fine detail as well as in lush broad strokes. And every true The Beatles fan of that day and age will recognise him or herself immediately in described scenes around the record player with the new single or album.
Concluding I can add that also in this book 'Abbey road' is considered the best album of The Beatles, a conclusion I can only adhere to. Despite the fact that I hated it when I was hearing it for the first time as a nine years old. "But I do not know a single song", I remember thinking and lost interest quite fast at this listen session at a friend's house. Like all boys my age present there, while the elder brothers were in rapture It took me ten years, but my opinion never wavered since.